Monday, March 7, 2011

Arizona Gun Leather: a quality holster doesn't have to be expensive

I am a big fan of concealed carry, and I have always carried my handgun with a simple in-waistband (IWB) holster. Most of the time I have used a regular plain leather holster with a belt clip, though over the years I've tried a few different styles, including slim profile on-waistband (OWB) and even a cheap nylon IWB version. They all carry the handgun just fine and make it easy to conceal, especially with how I dress. I am an average sized guy, 5'9" and 165lbs, but I can still conceal a full-size handgun with no problems wearing my jeans and a t-shirt. It has been my experience that over time most of these small IWB holsters get worn down and a little floppy and start to make effectively training out of your holster a real pain, especially when it comes to doing any one-handed work.

I looked around and read a number of reviews in magazines and on the internet about various new styles of holster and a few guys I know recommended the Crossbreed or the Comp-Tac MTAC holsters, but I looked at them and thought "Whoa! That is a big chunk of leather! No way am I going to carry that around." But then I had the chance to work with a few MTACs and I gotta say, they kinda grew on me. I liked that it was easy to tuck in a shirt, if needed, and they were very adjustable for carry style and draw technique. Plus, I could get the re-holstering ability of kydex with the comfort of leather.

Then one of our instructors here, Steve Dorothy, turned me onto Arizona Gun Leather, where I discovered I could get what was basically the same holster that Crossbreed and MTAC offered, but for half the price. I was a bit hesitant because there was such a price difference, and I had heard a few horror stories about Arizona Gun Leather's production times, but I ordered one up anyway. I had to know if a quality holster could be made for such a price.

Once I placed my order, I was told it would take at least two weeks to get my holster made, but in just 10 days they called me up and told me that my holster was shipping; I thought that was awfully nice of them to call me. My new 'Hybrid' model holster arrived a day later and I was anxious to try it out. Wow - that leather was stiff! After taking the holster on and off at least 20 times (which takes some getting used to with this style of holster) I got the clips exactly where I wanted them: low ride but high enough for a solid master grip, and set at a slight foward cant. The fit was pretty tight so I loosened and then ultimately removed the retention screw. My handgun was still very tight, and then I discovered the problem.

They had not put in a cut for the loaded chamber indicator, so my Ruger SR9 was so tight I could barely get it out. I called up AZ Gun Leather and they offered to take it back and fix the problem, but I said forget it, why send it back when I can do it myself? A little razor blade work and it was good-to-go. The first day I wore it I squeaked more than a saddle shop working at full-tilt, but that went away pretty quickly once the leather started shaping to my body. It was a little stiff and I could certainly tell that I had a much larger holster than I was used to. But with a couple of days the stiffness went away, and now the leather is taking on the form of the SR9 and is actually becoming very comfortable to wear.

Just as with any other holster, dry practice and live fire practice are extremely important. This particular style takes a little getting used to, and the Kydex needs to be broken in a bit, but now my draw is just as fast and smooth as it was with my old, broken-in holster. And now I can easily re-holster with one hand, draw with my support hand, and retain my handgun in all conditions. I really like this holster, and I can't say enough good things about the craftsmanship. Everything on it looks like I ordered a more expensive holster. My only complaints are the initial loaded chamber indicator cut, and the lack of choices for the holster clips. They only offer one style and while they are sturdy and stiff metal clips, I would like the choice to put some lower profile plastic clips on. I may upgrade to some Comp-Tac or Crossbreed plastic clips later, but for now these metal clips certainly do the job.

Overall, if you are looking for a new holster or just want to see what some less-expensive (but still high-quality) options are, you should consider Arizona Gun Leather. They offer holsters, mag holders, knife sheaths, exotic leathers, and much more. Visit their website to see more.

EDITED 11-16-2011: Arizona Gun Leather has unfortunately been treating their customers very poorly lately. I have heard and read many negative reviews concerning their lack of communication and also their not delivering products. Please consider Comp-Tac or Crossbreed Holsters as a much better alternative to AGL.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.
-Glen Stilson